Our Efforts in the News

Below, find some of the recent media about the Joyful Heart Foundation's efforts to end the rape kit backlog in the news. For even more about our work in the news, visit www.joyfulheartfoundation.org.

For media inquiries, email media@endthebacklog.org.


Hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested

May 27, 2014  
Ronan Farrow Daily

Sarah Tofte from the Joyful Heart Foundation and Natasha Alexenko from Natasha’s Justice Project discuss the estimated 400,000 rape kits that remain untested nationwide and the fight to #endthebacklog. Read more.

As Detroit rape kits sit untested, justice for victims is denied

April 21, 2014  
Detroit Free Press

By Paul Egan and Gina Damron

Nearly five years after the discovery of 11,000 abandoned rape evidence kits in a Detroit police warehouse sparked outrage, only about 2,000 of the kits have undergone DNA testing, allowing serial rapists to remain free. Read more.

As Detroit rape kits sit untested, justice for victims is denied

April 16, 2014  

By Adrian Sainz

Memphis is making progress in testing its backlog of 12,000 rape kits, including the filing of 14 indictments against sexual-assault suspects, but more work is needed. Read more.

Detective Olivia Benson on the Case: Mariska Hargitay’s Emotional Plea to Get Backlogged Rape Kits Tested

March 11, 2014  

By Charlotte Alter

The Law & Order: SVU star teared up when she discussed the immense backlog of untested rape kits. Read more.

Did Mariska Hargitay Help Catch A Real-Life Rapist?

March 11, 2014  
The Huffington Post

By Erin Whitney

It's no news that "Law & Order: SVU" star Mariska Hargitay fights for survivors of sexual assault in real life. The Joyful Heart Foundation, which she founded to help put an end to sexual and domestic violence, has recently helped the city of Detroit obtain funds to process a backlog of nearly 11,000 untested rape kits. Read more.

'Law & Order: SVU' actress Mariska Hargitay decries delay in rape kit testing

March 10, 2014  
Detroit Free Press

By Paul Egan and Gina Damron

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on Monday enlisted some star power in her push for funding and legislation to help clear a backlog of thousands of untested Detroit rape kits. Read more.

Biden promotes $35M proposal to test rape kits

March 5, 2014  
The Washington Post

By The Associated Press

Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday promoted President Barack Obama’s request for $35 million to help test more rape kits. The Joyful Heart Foundation, which works with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, said experts have estimated that the number of untested rape kits is in the hundreds of thousands. Read more.

States fight rape kit backlog

February 25, 2014  
MSNBC Jansing & Co.

By Erin Delmore

States across the country are proposing and enacting legislation to tackle the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits nationwide. Read more.

Ending the rape kit backlog

February 21, 2014  
Women's Media Center

By Marcia G. Yerman

Activists are working to remove a major hurdle to justice for sexual assault survivors: the backlog of evidence in hundreds of thousands of cases. Read more.

End to rape kit backlog will serve healing

February 17, 2014  
The Commercial Appeal

By Mayor AC Wharton and Sarah Tofte

Last week we stood together as Memphis made a public commitment to address and eliminate the city’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Read more.

Memphis has largest backlog of untested rape kits in US

February 12, 2014  

By Kontji Anthony

Memphis has the largest known number of untested rape kits in the country. The City of Memphis held a news conference Wednesday morning to announce several developments regarding the city's backlog. Read more.

5 Ways to Help End Rape in Alaska

February 4, 2014

By John Sutter

I recently traveled to the 49th state to try to figure out why it has the highest rate of reported rape in the nation—and what could be done to change that. Alaska doesn't have to be the state where rape is most common. 
Read more.

Rape Kit Testing Still Languishes

January 21, 2014
The Chicago Tribune

By Kay Manning

Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, was surprised—and outraged—when she learned of the rape kit backlog. Since then, she has formed Test400k, a non-profit organization that joins Joyful Heart's ENDTHEBACKLOG program and Natasha's Justice Project, whose namesake was raped at gunpoint in New York City, in trying to change the way law enforcement and society in general view sexual assault. Read more.

Rape victims sue police over decade-long rape kit backlog

December 27, 2013
MintPress News

By Katie Rucke

Several rape victims in Memphis, Tenn., have joined together to file a federal class action lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department for neglecting to test more than 12,000 rape kits that contain biological evidence collected from victims of sexual assault. Read more.

If We Want to Take Sexual Assault Seriously, We Need to Test Rape Kits First

December 10, 2013

By Tara Culp-Ressler

Here in the United States, which came first: A victim-blaming rape culture, or a police force that doesn’t take sexual assault cases seriously? Read more.

End Our Backlog of Rape Kit Processing

November 6, 2013
Shreveport Times 

By Sarah Tofte

Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. They overcome the social stigma of being the victim of sexual violence, the warnings sometimes uttered by the rapist to keep silent, the suggestions that these issues ought not to be spoken of; and they speak up. Read more.

Thousands of Untested Rape Kits in Memphis Endanger Public

September 8, 2013
Nonprofit Quarterly 

By Ruth McCambridge

For anyone who has worked on issues of violence against women, this should serve as a wake-up call that the work is far from done. For anyone who works on social change, it serves as a reminder that monitoring implementation of hard-won laws is critical. Read more.

The science of stopping sex crimes

September 4, 2013
Minnesota City Pages 

By Judy Keen 

In the quest to catch violent perps, rape kits can be a key ally – but only if they're tested. Read more.

Work to end the rape kit backlog

August 30, 2013
Tampa Bay Tribune

By Sarah Tofte

Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. Read more.

Why rapists have a 76 percent chance of getting away with the crime

August 25, 2013

By Sarah Tofte

Every year, thousands of individuals take the courageous step of reporting their rape to the police. They overcome the terrible, misplaced social stigma of being the victim of sexual violence, they overcome the warnings sometimes uttered by the rapist to keep silent, they overcome the suggestions that these issues ought not to be spoken of, and they speak up. Read more.

Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault

August 20, 2013
Thomson Reuters Foundation

By Sarah Tofte

Last year, a FedEx delivery truck arrived at the Detroit Police Department storage facility to pick up the first batch of untested rape kits bound, finally, for crime labs. Thus began Detroit’s massive task of processing its rape kit backlog – the more than 11,000 kits that were left behind to languish in a police warehouse, some for more than two decades. Read more.

Wayne County must put safety of its communities first: Sarah Tofte

June 6, 2013
Detroit Free Press

By Sarah Tofte

With Wednesday’s announcement that the State of Michigan may provide $4 million in funding to help test old rape kit evidence in Detroit, Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette made it clear that preventing and prosecuting sexual assaults in Detroit is a priority. Read more.


June 3, 2013
The Huffington Post

By Mariska Hargitay and Kym Worthy

Despite the progress we as a nation have made in the movement to end sexual violence, including the recent passage of a more inclusive Violence Against Women Act, much work remains to be done. Read more.

Law & Order star promotes Rockland's own SVU in video

May 10, 2013
Journal News - Lohud.com

By Steve Lieberman

Actress Mariska Hargitay talks about helping victims of sexual and domestic abuse on a video released Friday by the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office promoting the county’s “Spirit of Rockland" Special Victims Unit. Read more.

Wayne Co. prosecutor wins praise from actress for rape kit efforts

March 14, 2013
The Detroit News

By David Shepardson 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy lobbied Wednesday for more federal support to test a backlog of more than 10,000 rape kits from Detroit and won praise from a national advocate for victims of sexual assault. After initially testing 400 of the kits picked at random from a backlog of 11,300 that were found in a Detroit police storage facility in 2009 for a pilot project, Worthy said they have completed testing another 398 rape kits. read more

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Worthy lobbies for more rape kit testing funds

March 13, 2013
The Detroit News

By David Shepardson 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy lobbied Wednesday for more federal support to test a backlog of more than 10,000 rape kits from the city of Detroit and won praise from a national advocate for victims of sexual assault. Read more.

Thousands of untested rape kits lying in storage in Detroit

February 18, 2013
Canadian Broadcast Radio

By Pacinthe Mattar

A disturbing story about law and order today. In the city of Detroit, the woman who holds the job of Chief Prosecutor discovered that thousands of sexual assault cases have been in limbo for decades because evidence from so-called rape kits is languishing on forgotten shelves. It is not a problem unique to Detroit, but it is one that has seen serial rapists, and even murderers, exist undetected for years. Read more.

Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?

October 27, 2012
The New York Times

By Nicholas D. Kristof

The silliness began when Todd Akin claimed during his Senate campaign in Missouri that in the case of “legitimate rape,” women “shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. Then, a few days ago, Richard Mourdock of Indiana seemed to blame God for such pregnancies, saying this was “something God intended to happen.” I think God should sue him for defamation. Read more.

Cleveland police join cities nationwide testing old evidence from sexual-assault cases

April 22nd, 2012
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

By Rachel Dissell

More than two years ago, Cleveland police started an ambitious project to account for thousands of pieces of evidence in sexual assault cases going back at least 20 years. In doing so, they join a growing number of cities across America that are testing old evidence that has the potential to solve cold cases and offer some solace for victims, even in cases that can't be prosecuted. Read more.

Failure to Test Rape Kits is a National Embarrassment

September 29th, 2010  
The Huffington Post

By Lisa Madigan

Ask anyone to name the most serious crimes--rape and murder always top the list. It is impossible to imagine critical evidence in a murder case would not be used to put a murderer behind bars and bring peace and safety to the victim's loved ones and community. Read more.

Natasha's Justice Project, Stony Brook University To Study Rape Kit Backlog

September 16th, 2011
The Huffington Post

By Frank Eltman

A recently formed organization that contends there is a nationwide backlog of untested rape kits told The Associated Press on Monday that it was teaming with a New York university to try to figure out how many are sitting on police department shelves as a first step in clearing the logjam. Read more.

DNA Evidence CAN Stop Serial Rapists

August 4th, 2011
Ms. Magazine

By Stephanie Hallet

It was an ordinary day in October, 2002. Julie Weil and her infant son were picking up Julie’s daughter, three-year-old Emily, from her Florida preschool at noon. As Julie buckled her daughter into her car seat, she felt a sudden blow to the head. Read more.

DNA doesn’t lie

May 30th, 2011
Boston Herald

By Linda Fairstein

The fact that there are estimated to be almost a quarter of a million untested rape evidence collection kits collecting dust in police department warehouses across this country remains a national embarrassment. Read more.

Untested Rape Kit Update

May 25th, 2011
Marie Claire

By Abby Gardener

Yesterday, our deputy editor received a email with a message that was long overdue from rape victim Helena Lazaro. Read more.

It's time to test rape kits

May 15th, 2011
Houston Chronicle

By Mariska Hargitay, Sarah Tofte and Annette Burrhus-Clay 

Over the last two years, cities across Texas, including Houston, have acknowledged significant backlogs of untested rape kits in their police storage facilities — at least 4,000 kits in Houston and another 16,000 untested kits in Dallas and San Antonio combined. Read more.

Rebuttal: Justice Requires Rape-Kit Testing

April 4th, 2011
Women's eNews

By Sarah Tofte

In February Women's eNews ran a commentary by Wendy Murphy about excessive attention being paid to a backlog of untested rape kits. Here Sarah Tofte offers a vigorous rebuttal, told in part through the tribulations of one young woman. Read more.

America's Cold-Case Crisis

February 25th, 2011
The Daily Beast

By Linda Fairstein

Testing old rape kits could put countless rapists in prison—and exonerate others who were wrongly convicted. Linda Fairstein on the tragedy of letting these truth-tellers collect dust. Read more.

2011: The Year of National Rape Kit Backlog Reform

December 20th, 2010
The Huffington Post

By Sarah Tofte

The end of a year inspires bold predictions for the next one. At the end of this year, I am predicting that 2011 will be a year of unprecedented reform of the backlog of untested rape kits in the United State Read more.

Mariska Hargitay Helps Survivors Heal On and Off 'SVU'

September 29th, 2010

By Jacki Garfinkel

The Law & Order: SVU star speaks out about the rights of rape victims and what she's learned from Olivia Benson. Read more.

Law and Order Actress Raises Rape Kit Backlog Awareness

September 29th, 2010
NBC News

By NBC News

The season premiere of NBC's Law and Order SVU tackled the ongoing problem of backlogged rape kits sitting untested in police warehouses... delaying the prosecution of rape suspects. It was a problem brought to life in Los Angeles in 2009 and now actress Mariska Hargitay has started a foundation to help raise awareness and funds to get those rape kits tested. Read more.

Why Are These Rapes Still Unsolved?

September 28th, 2010
The Daily Beast

By Linda Fairstein

On tonight’s Law & Order: SVU, police will discover thousands of unexamined rape kits—a chilling premise that’s not just fiction. Linda Fairstein on how the real backlog could solve countless crimes. Read more.

Ending the Backlog

September 28th, 2010
The Huffington Post

By Mariska Hargitay and Neal Baer

By failing to test rape kits, we are telling victims that pursuing justice doesn't matter, that convicting violent perpetrators and taking them off our streets is not a top priority. Read more

New National Initiative on Rape Kits

May 21st, 2010
CBS Evening News

By Armen Keteyian

Almost a year ago, CBS News broadcast a two part series on a five month investigation into tens of thousands of untested rape kits nationwide. Read more.

Rape Kit Testing Backlog Thwarts Justice for Victims

May 20th, 2010
ABC News

By Devin Dwyer and Lisa Jones

When Valerie Neumann woke up dazed and physically bruised the morning after her 21st birthday, the awful reality began to sink in that she had been raped. Neumann then made the difficult decision many sexual assault victims make -- to submit to the ordeal of a rape kit at her local hospital. Read more.

Lobbying to reduce the Rape Kit Backlog

March 24th, 2010
CBS News

By Laura Strickler

This week, Valerie Neumann, a rape victim who was profiled in a CBS News investigation into the national rape kit backlog, is pounding the halls of Congress asking dozens of lawmakers to support legislation that will require DNA from all rape kits to be tested. Read more.

Nurses who deal with sexual assault cases are 'a special kind of person'

November 5th, 2009
Times Herald-Record

By Heather Yakin

Caring for and collecting evidence from survivors of sexual assault takes a special mix of compassion and technical expertise. Read more.

DNA test key in state rape kit overhaul

October 23rd, 2009
Times Union

By Carol Demere

It was the first overhaul in 20 years of what is officially known as the sexual offense evidence collection kit and the upgrade was seriously needed, state Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell said. Read more.

'SVU' star Mariska Hargitay joins forces with pros to revamp DNA evidence tool for rape victims

October 22nd, 2009
NY Daily News

By Patrick O'Shaughnessy

A new kit for collecting forensic evidence from rape victims will be unveiled today - the first revamping of the crucial tool in 20 years. Read more.

Rape kits get DNA upgrade, 'SVU' star

October 22nd, 2009
NY Post

By Bill Sanderson

Two decades after their first use in New York emergency rooms, rape testing kits are being updated for the DNA age. Read more.

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